Way back in the misty Northeast Iowa of the past, when I was 8 or 9, my brothers and I witnessed the graceful fury of the Foot Fist Way. A bunch of guys from the regional empire of Jung’s Tae Kwon Do came to our town and showed us all of the acrobatic ways in which a man can ruin lumber with his bare feet.
I may sound disrespectful, but that’s just my literary voice. My older brother and I signed up that night, and trained to the level of black belts. My younger brother still trains and teaches in St Paul. And it’s largely the influence of Master Woo Jin Jung, that has shaped me into the hopeless martial arts nerd that I am today (did you know there’s a Duck Style in Kung Fu? Because I did).
Master Jung learned TKD in the Korean army, and we trained as such. There was one drill in which we paired up and punched each other in the stomach to the teacher’s count. No defending, no blocking, you just stood there and got punched in the gut.
This is actually surprisingly effective. At my peak I’m pretty sure I could have taken a baseball bat to the stomach without slowing down.
I probably still could these days, if that baseball bat were wielded by a blind child with one arm. Who was sleeping. And horrendously fat. And probably ugly too – I mean, the hypothetical little bastard’s hitting me with a bat, am I gonna make him pretty?
As you may know, in addition this labor of love you read right now, I also blog over at Cooper & Kid. My area of soliloquy is cooking and food as a father, but there’s a guy on the site named Chris Dovale who writes a blog I’m really digging about dad fitness.
He wrote a post recently called “Be Water My Friend.” It’s a quote from Bruce Lee, describing how a fighter’s style should be flexible and versatile enough to flow perfectly into the circumstances like water into a vessel. This also applies to training, how you should structure your training to fit your life as a dad, as opposed to trying to structure your life as a dad to your training. If you’re at the playground, do some chin-ups on the monkey bars, play tag for some cardio, that sort of thing.
I enthusiastically subscribe to this. Instead of doing knuckle or fingertip-pushups while an iron-hard little Korean man idly kicks my side, Little Man and myself do lots of crawl-chasing around, papa on his knuckles, Little Man on whatever he wants. Instead of doing the splits whilst aforementioned iron-hard little Korean man pushes down on my shoulders, I sneak in hurdle stretches while we play with trains. And instead of being punched in the gut repeatedly by a grown man with all the misplaced rage of an America in rural decay, I have a 35 pound toddler bounce on my stomach as I hide under blankets.
I may not be ready for competition, but if I suddenly found myself serendipitously paired with Cynthia Rothrock, and embroiled (through no fault of my own) in some sort of guns-free international gang war that might, just might reach all the way up to City Hall? Well, let’s just say this papa could dispense hard justice to his share of nameless goons. Although looking good doing it might be too much of a stretch. Whatever.
Play makes me strong.